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2011-04-18 Steve Gardiner Students Share Literature Through Booktalks

Written book reports take a long time to write and even longer to grade. Oral book reports, even short ones, can burn up several class periods in addition to frightening many students as they wait to give their reports and putting the whole class to sleep as they are given.

How can you discover what students are reading, what it means to them, and yet not spend too much class time in the process?

The answer is a booktalk.

We run these informally in class as time allows. A booktalk can take ten minutes or 30 minutes depending on our schedule and the nature of the students in class. I don't require everyone to speak, but encourage participation and make the opportunity available.

I read everyday with my students in sustained, silent reading time, so they see my books, watch me read and enjoy them, and like to hear what I have to say about those books.

Unless someone begs to go first, I start, modeling the kind of comments I hope to get from the students. I talk about the characters, the setting, the theme, the writer's style, my personal identification to the story or topic, or connection to other books by the same author or on the same topic. I invite questions, then open the floor to volunteers who want to follow my lead.

Someone always want to share a book. We listen, ask a few questions, and move to the next person. One minute, maybe two minutes for a report and in quick order those students who need or want to share their book have done so. Others have seen the process and will likely contribute next. “everyone has heard about books others are reading and can now consider or reject those as possible future books in their own reading programs.

Because the primary goals of my independent reading program are to encourage lots of reading and to increase enjoyment or reading, I don't even grade the booktalks.
That might raise the question, If there is no grade, will they talk?” Yes, they will, and perhaps because there is an informal structure and not grade, some who might otherwise stay silent, will get involved, share their books, and add to the collective enjoyment we experience during a booktalk.

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